Did you know that you’re a role-model?
Chances are you know someone who falls under the queer spectrum if you’re queer yourself–or even if you’re straight. Oftentimes, younger queer individuals can be swayed into bad habits at a young age in certain circles of the community. Excessive use of drugs, alcohol, self-distructive forms of sex (like making one’s home in a bathhouse), and eating disorders are rampant in some queer circles. How can we keep today’s youth out of these spaces and loving their bodies, no matter how they look? Read on to find out.
It’s up to each of us to step up to the plate, first and foremost. If you’ve been living a life that’s a bit off the straight and narrow (I’m not talking a beer on the weekend, I’m talking drinking to excess, hard drug use, etc.) do your best to get help. If you know youth involved in these activities, try going to AA or NA–if your vice is food–perhaps OA, together. AA is a bit preachy for some of the queer community, so if that’s not your style, just clean up the best you can (or go into a different drug treatment program), and find others committed to doing the same. Kids emulate what they see, and the more they see a certain behavior, the more they think it’s okay and socially acceptable. Be the kind of person you want your younger queer friends to look up to in a positive way.
Get involved in things that don’t promote or embrace bad behavior. Stay away from certain clubs (yes, I am talking about saunas), cut ties with bad influences, and make sure your younger queer friends know there are lots of things to do in your city that don’t involve underage drinking, drugs, and fast food joints. If you have the skill, or know someone who does–teach a kid or young adult to cook so they aren’t living off taco bell or burger king. If they’ve got a good, somewhat accepting home life–suggest they do this with their parents. If the youth in question is at a shelter or halfway house, try to do the best you can with what you have.
Get outside (or inside, if the kid you know is an introvert) and play games. Baseball, soccer, or whatever you want. Encourage the youth in question to go out for sports if that’s their thing (yep, even if they’re gay. If you’re on this site, you should know it’s illegal in a lot of states for sports teams to discriminate based on sexual orientation.) or if they’re more of the solitary activity type, maybe mountain biking or computer gaming is their thing. Online communities can provide strong support for the young gay community, and many multiplayer online games even have collections of people that not only support, but tailor their play groups to include and welcome LGBT members.
Overall, being a positive role model starts with you. If you want to see young people leading healthy, fulfilling lives, we need to give them people to look up to that are real–not just celebrities that have come out. (Although they certainly help!) What’s your best advice to leading a role model lifestyle for today’s queer youth?
The trouble is that each of us, weather we like it or not, is modelling what it means to be queer. Wouldn’t you prefer it be something that you can be proud of? Wouldn’t it be better if we all took the time to be a role-model that builds self-esteme?
Editor’s note – The feature image is of a statue of Alan Turing, the man who arguably saved the world from Nazism . Alan Turing broke the German encryption codes so that the Allies knew what the Germany military had planned. Alan Turing’s work was top-secret until well after his death. He died in disgrace after being convicted of being a homosexual, but the fact remains he saved the world from fascism. If I had my way, every student in the world would learn about him. Wikipedia has an excellent entry that you should read about Alan Turing. The statue made out of 200 individual pieces of slate by Stephen Kettle. The photograph was taken by Elliot Brown at Betchley Park in October, 2010. You can see more of Mr Brown’s photography at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/